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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Not Sub Judice

Bar Council: Public comments on Subashini case not sub judice

Public comments about the R. Subashini case, which is pending in the Federal Court, are not sub judice, the Bar Council said today. "This fear is unfounded, and the argument is without basis," its chairwoman, Ambiga Sreenevasan, said in a statement.

She was commenting on the lodging of a report by Subashini's Muslim-convert husband, Mohd Shafi Abdullah, against the Bar Council, non-governmental organisations and several individuals for allegedly making prejudicial and contemptuous comments against a March 13 Court of Appeal decision.

In the 2-1 decision by the bench, Subashini, who wants to stop her husband from dissolving their civil marriage and converting one of their children to Islam, was told to seek recourse at the Syariah Appeal Court.

Mohd Shafi, formerly T. Saravanan, said among the allegations against him was that he had embraced Islam to shirk his responsibilities under civil laws and that the March 13 decision was unfair.

"The law of contempt and sub judice in this context is applicable mainly in relation to a jury or where there are vulnerable witnesses who may be influenced by public comments," Ambiga said.

"It certainly does not apply to judges and especially, as in this case, the Federal Court judges who will consider points of law on the materials before them, uninfluenced by extraneous matters and comments in the public domain."

She added that public comments on matters of public interest, particularly where it involves constitutional guarantees, cannot be sub judice or contempt - The Sun.